The interdisciplinary field of children's studies was founded at Brooklyn College in fall 1991. Its aim was to promote a unified approach to the study of children and youth across the disciplines in the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, medicine and law. This new concept of "children's studies," with its emphasis on an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach of study to the generational cohort of children from 0 to 18 years of age, was introduced and coined in contradistinction to the Child Study Movement initiated by Stanley Hall at the turn of the 20th century with its focus on child psychology and development. From its beginnings, the field of children's studies made the ontological claim that children must be viewed in their fullness as human beings, as a generational and social class in all their civil, political, social, economic and cultural dimensions. From 1992 forward the human rights of children represented a major framework for the new and interdisciplinary field of children's studies. After 1991, other academic institutions established children's studies programs. In 2011, the title of the Children's Studies Program at Brooklyn College was officially changed to the Children and Youth Studies Program.
In a 1998 article published in The New York Times, Edward Rothstein wrote, "Gertrud Lenzer founded a pioneering program in children studies applying anthropology, psychology, literature and history to the study of children and adolescence … other schools have begun similar programs.” In the Sunday Reader of The Dallas Morning News in an article titled “Lenzer Champions Growing Field of Children's Studies,” Ira J. Hadnot writes that Lenzer created a novel program that is being copied across the country. In a 2001 article in the Lion and the Unicorn, Lenzer provides a short history of children's studies.
Earlier in 1991, Brooklyn College was also the academic institution that initiated the establishment of the "Sociology of Children" as a new field and section within the American Sociological Association. Before founding the interdisciplinary field of children's studies with colleagues from different disciplines in fall 1991, Gertrud Lenzer set out to establish the "Sociology of Children." To this end, she wrote an article in August, 1991 titled "Is There Sufficient Interest to Establish a Sociology of Children?" in the ASA journal Footnotes. With the help from many colleagues across the United States and Europe, the new ASA Sociology of Children section was officially established in 1992.